Classic Lithuanian Literature Anthology

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Martynas Mažvydas

(circa 1520 - 1563)


Catechismusa by M.Mazvydas
Variant forms of the name: Martinus Masvidius, Martinus Maszwidas, M. Mossuids Waytkūnas, Mastwidas, Mažvydas, Mosvidius, Maswidsche, Mossvid Vaitkuna.

    Martynas Mažvydas is a most prolific Lithuanian author of the 16th century, whose name associates with the beginning of Lithuanian literature. He was of Samogitian origin. Supposedly, his parents were indigent townspeople. M. Mažvydas spent his youth in Vilnius, where he worked together with other authors of the first Lithuanian writs from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, such as A. Kulvietis, J Zablockis and, possibly, S. Rapolionis. (Later he published some of their works in the first Lithuanian printed books.) In Lithuania M. Mažvydas was persecuted for the propagation of Reformation ideas, thus he had accepted an invitation from the Duke of Prussia Albrecht and departed to Königsberg, where he entered the University in 1546. In the year of 1548 he had graduated from the University with a bachelor's degree. The fact that M. Mažvydas graduated from the University in one and a half year proves that he studied elsewhere before - supposedly in Kraków or at the school established by A. Kulvietis in Vilnius. It is also supposed that he was teaching at the same school.
    During his studies in Königsberg in the year 1547 M. Mažvydas compiled and published the first printed Lithuanian book "The Simple Words of Catechismus", thus launching literature and book printing in Lithuanian.
    In 1549 M. Mažvydas was appointed the dean of Ragainė. In the same year he wrote and published "The Song of St. Ambrosy" with a dedication in Lithuanian. In 1554 M. Mažvydas became the Archdeacon (the vicegerent of the bishop) of Ragainė. He took care of education of his parishioners, regulated agricultural matters and continued his literary work in Lithuanian. He translated "The Form of Baptism" from German and published it in Königsberg in the year 1559. In 1558-1562 he translated from "The Prussian Agenda" a prayer "Paraphrasis" that was published in Königsberg in 1589, after the death of translator. His major work is "The Christian Songs" (Part I, in 1566; Part II, in 1570) that were printed by his cousin B. Vilentas. This book of songs by M. Mažvydas served as a basis for other Protestant books of songs later published in Lithuania Minor.
    M. Mažvydas had initiated the patterns of practically all kinds of established works of the ancient Lithuanian literature: an ABC book; a Catechismus; a book of songs with notes; a prayer book; a Holy Writ translation; original prefaces and dedications.
    M. Mažvydas died on May 21 in the year 1563.